grave

Listener Essay - Moving Over

Nov 2, 2017

Moving Over

Today was my mother Teresa’s wake. As I drifted out of sleep that morning, the telephone rang, beginning one of the weirdest phone calls of my life.

“Hello Deborah?” It was Phil Bocketti from the funeral home. “We have an issue. It’s not your problem, and it’s not mine, but we have to get a decision anyway.”

Under the collective name of Kennedy-Smith, our family owned a six-grave plot at Saint Joseph’s Cemetery in Troy. My grandparents were buried alongside one another; the other graves were for their two daughters and their respective spouses. The cemetery caretaker, upon reviewing the records, found Aunt Josie, who never married, was buried right next to Dad.

Phil continued: “The caretaker wants to know what he should do. If we bury your mother like it is now, she won’t be next to your father. If we move your Aunt Josie, we may have to dig more graves. What do you think?”

“Phil, they’re all dead, right? Who cares?”

    It has been said that in the long run, we are all dead.

But for some of the most influential figures in history, death marked the start of a new adventure. The famous deceased have been stolen, burned, sold, pickled, frozen, stuffed, impersonated, and even filed away in a lawyer’s office.

Counterfeiters tried to steal Lincoln’s corpse. Einstein’s brain went on a cross-country road trip. And after Lord Horatio Nelson perished at Trafalgar, his sailors submerged him in brandy—which they drank.

From Mozart to Hitler, Rest in Pieces is a book that connects the lives of the famous dead to the hilarious and horrifying adventures of their corpses, and traces the evolution of cultural attitudes toward death. Bess Lovejoy is a writer, researcher, and editor based in Seattle.